Colombia

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: A Christmas Vigil in El Garzal

Vigil at El Garzal

It was a Christmas perhaps more akin to that first one in Bethlehem than the ones I am used to in Canada. No fancy lights—no electricity except for a diesel generator that gets used occasionally at night. No Christmas tree, nor gifts under it. No alcohol. No turkey. And, thankfully, without the cacophony of extremely loud music around our house here in Barrancabermeja, where neighbours set up humongous competing sound systems in front of their houses to celebrate the season.

Our main reason for visiting was to accompany Garzal's twice-displaced leader and pastor, Reverend Salvador Alcántara and his family, so they could spend Christmas with family and loved ones in Garzal. Salvador and his family had to leave the area again last May because of death threats. They miss Garzal very very much! Salvador described the feeling of being back, albeit for only three days, as like being re-born.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Something Beautiful in Barranca

CPTnet
13 December 2013
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Something Beautiful in Barranca

by Hannah Redekop

 

  

CPTers Pierre Shantz, Vania and Hannah Redekop cheering at the Women's World Futsal Championships in Barrancabermaja. 

Barrancabermeja (or Barranca, as the locals call it) perches on the banks of the Magdalena River, one more port along the journey north from the mountains of Neiva to the Caribbean Sea.  She is a small, sleepy oil town that sizzles with tropical sunbeams and an uncivil war tied to the petroleum that pumps under her skin.  

There isn’t much excitement here most days. The city lacks cultural attractions, good entertainment, pulsing night-life—anything at all, really, to warrant a stroll downtown.  But the first week of November proved otherwise.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Celebrates!


The small Colombian community of El Guayabo, supported by neighboring communities, resisted an eviction on Tuesday 19 November that Police Inspector Leonel Gutierrez Lagares ordered.  Had it succeeded, the eviction would have displaced the community’s teacher from land that has served as his livelihood for the past twenty-five years.

The 19 November eviction order is the third in a series of attempts to evict the El Guayabo community from the contested land on claims that the community belongs to the guerilla movement.  Regional courts postponed the first two eviction orders that occurred in October, hours after the community filed injunctions.

The community celebrated with tears of joy as the police decided not carry through with the eviction because large numbers of community members were present, including families with children, and a cadre of community lawyers.  However, El Guayabo remains quite anxious about the possible intervention of illegal armed actors.  A community leader referenced the paramilitary presence in the town in 2002 as a source of their fear.  When CPT visited El Guayabo, the leaders spoke of the history of violence in their community and signaled across the street from the church to the place where the paramilitaries had assassinated community members.

CPT Colombia has been following the situation in El Guayabo for the past couple of months through a connection with one of our partners.  We pray for a just outcome from the legal process and for peace in the hearts of the community as they endure a difficult time of uncertainty and threat.

With more volunteers, CPT’s Colombia team could expand its accompaniment work to include other communities like El Guayabo that are choosing to resist economic and political interests trying to drive them off their lands and paramilitary death threats.  You, too, can accompany communities like El Guayabo by giving generously.

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COLOMBIA: Las Pavas wins Colombia's National Peace Prize

Last night, members from the Las Pavas community stood in the spotlight at the National Museum in Bogotá where they won the National Peace Prize. Holding the prize, community leader Misael Payeres, announced, “Our primary hope is in God—that one day we would see justice. We hope is that this prize will continue to plant seeds of peace and reconciliation for all Colombians. That is the biggest prize I ask for all Colombians.”

The three thousand hectares of land on which the farm of Las Pavas is located has been in legal contention for seven years. The community has experienced displacement, eviction, victimization, and today continues to face threats and violent attacks from armed private “security” guards of palm oil company, Aportes San Isisdro.

#GIVINGTUESDAY In 2009, when CPT Colombia first began accompanying the community of Las Pavas, the team had no idea whether the families would ever be able to return to their land, or whether it would ever be able to produce good food again.  Probably no CPTers or Las Pavas community members imagined that they would be standing on a stage receiving the Colombia National Peace Prize in 2013.  In addition to the families' courage and perseverance, international support made huge difference to their struggle.  Internationals picketed the Body Shop, asking that it stop buying palm oil from the corporation that had driven Las Pavas off its land.  Internationals prayed for the people of Las Pavas.  And internationals made generous donations, to help CPT provide accompaniment for the families, who faced continuous violent assaults from thugs hired by the palm oil corporation.  Even with the winning of the prize, this harrassment has not ended.  Please continue to support Las Pavas and the hope and courage that its families represent.

 

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Colombia Reflection: On Going Home

The small farmers of Colombia have been on strike for the past six weeks. This meant that thousands of families and hundreds of communities took to the streets of Colombia, blocking major arteries along national highways and demanding change.  The mobilization took place as a result of empty promises from the Santos government, who have failed to provide agricultural subsidies, create the appropriate economic and social infrastructure, and facilitate a land reform process where Colombian farmers will be favoured over multinational investors.  Their demands also include an end to the Free Trade Agreements with Canada, the United States and the EU which have made it impossible for Colombian farmers to compete in their own national market.

So they shut the country down. Farmers traveled for days and camped out for weeks trying to negotiate with a government who refuses to recognize their human rights. After six weeks of striking, where five people were killed and many more were wounded, the government has agreed to work with various geographical areas individually to tailor resolutions for specific regions.

Colombia Reflection: Friendship and Peacemaking

At its essence, peacemaking is about relationship-building among individuals and communities, whether they are strangers, enemies, or friends. Peacemaking as relationship-building has its roots in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. More significantly for me, I have experienced peacemaking as relationship-building in my life in concrete, embodied ways, with women, children, and men in the communities where I’ve worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

This was proven again as I began a friendship with Aliana*, a delightful, curious girl from my neighborhood in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, where I live and work with CPT.

When I presented the idea of painting the new CPT logo on the wall of our new CPT office, I thought it would be great to involve a local artist. Fellow CPTer Pierre knew a painter who could do an excellent job; her name is Aliana. I was excited, immediately thinking she would be a university student or a member of the local peace movement. To my delight and surprise, I learned she is an 11 year-old girl from the neighborhood known for her artistic gifts.

COLOMBIA: How you can support the participants in the Colombian National Strike

The Colombian national strike is now in its second week and has shut down three highways, but President Santos until two nights ago refused to acknowledge its existence.  Police brutality against the demonstrators has increased to the extent that the Director of National Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, has promised an inquiry.  Many voices have spoken; those in power have heard some and ignored others.  One voice we would like to highlight is that of Archbishop of Tunja, Msgr. Luis Augusto Castro, whose pastoral voice invited a calm and a just response to the strikers’ demands from the government.

An invitation to President Santos by Msgr. LuĂ­s Augusto Castro, Archbishop of Tunja
Click here to watch the Video
  photo: cambio.com.co

The government's choice to avoid negotiations and use violence to clamp down on the people’s right to protest is a cause for concern.  Support the farmers’ strike by this signing this petition urging President Santos to negotiate with an open mind, and urging those in power to lead this country from injustice to justice. 

Show your support of the farmers strike by making a sign "YO APOYO EL PARO AGARARIO" (I support the Farmers Strike).  Include your location and send it out on Facebook and Twitter using:

  1. Use #yoapoyoelparoagrario on twitter and facebook
  2. Tag on us facebook (use the name Christian Peacemaker Teams - Colombia in a comment or "Share" one of the team's posts on the strike)
  3. Tag us on twitter: @cptco

Or, email us your photo

Prayers for Peacemakers, 28 August 2013



Epixel* for 1 September 2013






Striking Colombian Farmers protesting
Free Trade Agreement
l. Firing Zone 918, r. Rajabi Building


The Lord overthrows the thrones of
rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place
.

The Lord plucks up the roots of the
nations, and plants the humble
in their place.
Sirach 10:14-15




*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches
related to and appearing with a text from the
upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary
readings.

Prayers for Peacemakers, 28 August 2013

Pray that the Israeli High Court will render just decisions on 2 September 2013 when it decides whether the Israeli military can evict hundreds of families from their homes in the South Hebron Hills, and whether settlers can take over the Rajabi building in Hebron.

Related Story: PALESTINE URGENT ACTION: 2 Campaigns, 2 Petitions, 2 September 2013

Pray also for the nation of Colombia as a strike by small farmers, miners, the indigenous, truckers, teachers, and healthcare workers demanding the rights guaranteed them under the Colombian constitution enters its second week.

Related Story: COLOMBIA: National Strike participants seek recognition as full citizens

COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: A short primer on the national strike

 

 
 Protests in Sincelejo (Photo: Marcha Patriotica)

 Beginning on Monday, 19 August, broad sectors of Colombian society rose up in a national strike.  The strike, which is now taking place in cities and rural areas across the country, includes coffee growers’ unions, truck drivers, small-scale miners, students, teachers, health workers, farmers, and fishermen.  CPT has had a presence at the strikes and roadblocks taking place in Segovia and Remedios, in northeastern Antioquia.  What follows is a short primer on why Colombians are striking, the historical context of these demonstrations, and what the demonstrators have demanded from the State.

 Colombia is a country deeply divided by economic inequality.  Almost half of all rural Colombians live in extreme poverty, defined as subsisting on less than $1.00 a day.  Colombia is also home to five million internally displaced people, a number on par globally only with the Sudan.  That adds up to one in ten Colombians, displaced within the last twelve years to refugee camps, shantytowns, and temporary shelters.  Women, Afro-descendants, and indigenous peoples are more likely than others to be displaced.

COLOMBIA: National Strike participants seek recognition as full citizens

On Sunday, 18 August, young men and women from rural areas in the department of Antioquia took to the streets of Segovia municipality to express their frustration at a system that has abandoned them to live in desperate conditions.

This action is part of a larger national protest.  All over Colombia, small farmers, miners, the indigenous, truckers, teachers, and healthcare workers are crying out that they are tired of the conditions the Colombian government has asked them to endure in order to join the wider world economy.




Segovia Coliseum

On 17 August, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) arrived in Segovia to accompany 2000 small farmers, miners and indigenous peoples joining the national strike set to start on the 19th.  Children, women, and men pitched their tents inside the local coliseum determined, despite close quarters, to remain there until the government agrees to negotiate with them.  CPT partner CAHUCOPANA and organizer of the Segovia strike, declared the coliseum a Humanitarian Refuge—an area protected under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in which no arms are allowed and which guarantees the protection of those residing within.  The organizers set up the Humanitarian Refuge to prevent armed actors, particularly law enforcement, from laying siege to the encampment in order to shut down the demonstrations.